Slime sublime

Dow chem­ists show camp kids that mak­ing colored goop can be a fun sci­ence les­son.

Take 42 fourth-, fifth- and sixth-graders. Add one or­gan­ic chem­ist who asks the ques­tion, “Who wants to make slime?”

How many kids raise their hands?

You didn’t an­swer, “Forty-two”? Ser­i­ously? That’s a gimme. All kids want to make slime.

And not only did all 42 of the kids gathered at the North­east Frank­ford Boys and Girls Club want to make slime on June 28, they made it in their own choices of col­ors.

They had a pretty good time do­ing it, too.

That isn’t what Ke­saiya Evans, 10, had ex­pec­ted. “I thought we were just go­ing to talk about things,” the Zie­g­ler School pu­pil said.

Nath­an Al­len, an or­gan­ic chem­ist who works for the Dow Chem­ic­al Co. in Spring­house, and a few col­leagues got down to work with the kids dur­ing a fun ses­sion at the Kin­sey Street club.

The slime that the kids made last week was, for the most part, wa­ter. It star­ted with polyvinyl al­co­hol, which is Elmer’s Gel Glue, Al­len said. A solu­tion of wa­ter and a little Bor­ax (as in 20-Mule Team Bor­ax) was ad­ded, and then the mix­ture was stirred. 

Each child got a little jar, and Al­len meas­ured the cor­rect com­bin­a­tions of the chem­ic­als for them. He handed the kids tongue de­pressors and told them to start stir­ring. Al­len then looked down at a few small bottles of ve­get­able dyes.

“What col­or do you want?” Al­len asked the kids gathered around one table.

As they stirred their mix­tures, he put in drops of re­ques­ted dyes. Some of the kids put a lot of el­bow grease in­to their ef­forts, and the mix­tures star­ted to stiffen in a vari­ety of shades — red, goofy purple, aqua­mar­ine, shim­mer­ing blue.

“Sci­ence is lovely, isn’t it?” Al­len asked.

Bri­an Rudd, 10, who at­tends Mas­tery Charter, said it was funny, too, es­pe­cially when the kids star­ted play­ing with the slimes they had mixed.

The kids were told they could take home their slimes — along with their ac­counts of how the goop was made.

“I’m go­ing to show my mom and tell her all about it,” said 10-year-old James Sav­age, a Sankofa Free­dom Academy pu­pil.

And there was a ser­i­ous point to it all. For Dow Chem­ic­al, which is spon­sor­ing a weeklong Camp In­ven­tion in three Great­er Phil­adelphia loc­a­tions, the idea is to pre­pare the next gen­er­a­tion of chem­ists by get­ting them in­ter­ested in sci­ence when they’re young.

After their demon­stra­tion in Frank­ford, the vis­it­ing Dow sci­ent­ists packed up their chem­ic­als to head for a sim­il­ar present­a­tion at the Brides­burg Boys and Girls Club.

The kids at the Frank­ford club, mean­while, headed to the gym to take part in Camp In­ven­tion activ­it­ies with vo­lun­teers who had been trained to lead the chil­dren in vari­ous pro­jects.

Dow picked up the tab for 50 kids to learn about sci­ence dur­ing the Frank­ford camp. in Camp Cre­ation. An­oth­er 50 at the Brides­burg Boys and Girls Club and 110 young­sters at the Maple Shade Ele­ment­ary School in Croy­don, Bucks County, also had fun with the sub­ject last week.

Dur­ing the Frank­ford camp, one group of kids learned about “bio­mim­icry” — ob­serving nature and be­ing in­spired by nature.

The chil­dren learned about the fire beetle, an in­sect that finds its way us­ing in­frared light. They built a maze and let loose a ro­bot­ic beetle that got around just like the fire beetle does. 

An­oth­er cluster of kids got clues to solve a cipher to­geth­er. They also learned about ar­chi­tec­ture and how to work as a team.

Ap­ply­ing team­work to sci­ence is one of Camp In­ven­tion’s key points — that you can do more with­in a team than you can by your­self.

Ac­cord­ing to the com­pany’s pub­li­city ma­ter­i­al, Dow is proud of the dec­ades of sup­port it has giv­en to sci­ence, tech­no­logy, en­gin­eer­ing and edu­ca­tion. Camp In­ven­tion was cre­ated by In­vent Now Inc., a non-profit that provides sci­ence, math­em­at­ics, en­gin­eer­ing and tech­no­logy pro­grams for ele­ment­ary-school pu­pils in part­ner­ship with the U.S. Pat­ent and Trade­mark Of­fice. ••

Any­one in­ter­ested in ar­ran­ging for an or­gan­iz­a­tion to host “Camp In­ven­tion” may call In­vent Now Inc.’s Susan Clark at 1-800-968-4332, Ext. 1964, or send e-mail to Camp­In­ven­ “Camp In­ven­tion” is about 32 hours of pro­grams in five groups of activ­it­ies.

There is no cost to the spon­sor­ing site, but par­ents pay for the camp un­less a sup­port­er — like Dow Chem­ic­al — provides schol­ar­ships for the chil­dren.

Re­port­er John Loftus can be reached at 215-354-3110 or at

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